Hey, everyone! Welcome back to basketball season. This is our weekly check-in to all things basketball, across the entire landscape. If something happens on the hardwood, you’ll hear about it every Monday morning, right here.
THE BIGGEST STORY IN BASKETBALL
I took the time to write about Duke late last week, but the Devils wouldn’t let me stop there. They strolled into Las Vegas and absolutely boatraced UNLV, winning by seven touchdowns on the road. I’m eager to see how the polls react to Duke’s rise, even with every team ahead of them winning this week. It’s early in the season, but as we stand here on December 12, Duke is unquestionably the most talented college basketball team in America. Their best game trumps everyone else’s best and the #1 recruit in the nation has yet to suit up due to injury. None of the other 350 teams in college hoops are going to beat Duke by being simply better than Duke, so it may be time to start matching strengths and weaknesses.
Villanova is the #1 team in the nation and undefeated, yet if you lined up the Wildcats and Dukies and had two captains pick teams, the talent pool at Duke starts to look downright unfair. Sure, National Player of the Year candidate Josh Hart would be the first or second pick, but there may be as many as five Blue Devils better than the second best guy at Villanova.
If you’re looking for the kind of team who can take down Duke, it starts with defensive pressure. Point guard is the Devils’ only obvious hole, so opposing coaches may look to trap and force turnovers. Teams with high-tempo, lockdown defenses could have a chance to fluster Duke. The Blue Devils’ trip to Louisville on January 14 will be a nice test of this theory. If the guards in Durham show themselves capable of resisting and beating pressure defense, every other coach in America will be scrambling for a plan B to top Coach K this season.
BASKETBALL IS FUN!
With all of the hot takes and super serious basketball related opinions out there, it’s important to remember that this is a game being played and watched for fun. Every week we’ll highlight something on the lighter side of the hoops world.
Sixers’ coach Brett Brown thrives in the snow:
Rookie guard Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot does not:
The Cavs had an 80’s night and produced a gem of a video:
All the pieces and posts you need to read to be on the ball.
Palestra Back this week: Duke is good. Scary good and only getting better.
And PB shirts are still on sale! Including one for every basketball team in Philadelphia:
Rush the Court: How hard is it for a mid-major to earn a #1 seed? Really hard.
Two good pieces went live at the Worldwide leader this week. Eamonn Brennan profiled the endlessly fun UCLA Bruins and Jeff Goodman introduced us to Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen.
May the Tuesday Top Tens rest in pieces. Long live Rank Shots! If you’re not familiar, this is where we rank the best teams in the NBA, college basketball, and another totally irrelevant something.
- Golden State Warriors
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- San Antonio Spurs
- Toronto Raptors
- LA Clippers
- OKC Thunder
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Houston Rockets
- Chick-Fil-A Sauce
- Honey Mustard
Game of the Week
For the past two seasons, I’d list out every single game worth watching in this space. It took me a lot of time and effort to do something you didn’t really need. You can head over to your favorite scores website or app to see every game, but this is the one you’ll have wished you watched:
The Crossroads Classic, Saturday
#15 Purdue vs #21 Notre Dame (2 PM, ESPN2)
#18 Butler vs #9 Indiana (5 PM, Big Ten Network)
Apologies to UNC-Kentucky which tips about an hour after the second game of this event, but I’ll take these two games featuring four ranked in-state rivals on a neutral court as the must watch event of the week. The Crossroads Classic has become the second coolest regional rivalry set-up in college hoops, following (call me biased) Philly’s Big 5. Indiana’s statewide clash gets bonus points for having a doubleheader of great games every year and for being the hotbed of hoops, but you can’t beat the Palestra and a fierce five-way rivalry.
I’m not a gambling man, and wouldn’t recommend you are either, but since this blog began, I’ve been asked for gambling advice just as often as I’ve been asked about my genuine basketball opinion. Even if I don’t have any money in the game, I watch a lot of hoops and might just be able to pick you some winners. (Last week 2-1 / Season 5-3)
Kings (-7) over Lakers
Auburn (-10) over Boston College
Hornets (+1.5) over Pacers
Enjoy the games, folks.
(Note: Every edition of This Week in Hoops will end with a song. I’ve compiled all of these songs into a playlist that you can find here.)
Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and writer at PalestraBack.com. He has also contributed to SALTMoney.org, Rush The Court, ESPN.com, and USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain. If you have any suggestions, tips, ideas, or questions, email them to email@example.com.